TSA employees embraced Friday outside the Los Angeles International Airport.
People ran toward Terminal 2 on Friday after it was reopened. Passengers spent hours in waiting areas, parking lots and nearby hotels as they waited for flights to resume.
Gregory Bull • Associated Press,
Police officers stood near an unidentified weapon in Terminal 3 of the Los Angeles International Airport.
With 76,000 travelers delayed, the ripple effects will last for days.
Genaro Molina • Los Angeles Times,
This photo provided by the FBI shows Paul Ciancia, 23.
Gunman unleashes terror at LAX
- Article by: Scott Gold, Joel Rubin and Kate Mather
- Los Angeles Times
- November 2, 2013 - 12:30 AM
LOS ANGELES – A composed, solitary gunman shot his way into Los Angeles International Airport on Friday morning, killing a transit security screener and injuring at least two more agents before being wounded by police and taken into custody. The incident was over in less than 10 minutes but caused chaos at the world’s sixth-busiest airport and delayed tens of thousands of travelers across the nation.
The suspected gunman was identified as Paul Anthony Ciancia, 23, a New Jersey native who lives in Los Angeles.
Authorities declined to discuss the gunman’s motivation publicly. But authorities found a note in the gunman’s bag indicating that he wanted to kill TSA agents, two law-enforcement officials said. The note contained other antigovernment rhetoric and made clear that he wanted to avoid hurting civilians, the officials said. Ciancia also sent a sibling a text message last week suggesting that he was prepared to die, officials said.
It appears the gunman — who carried 100 rounds of ammunition — targeted Transportation Security Administration agents, who are not armed. Authorities said he approached several people cowering in the airport terminal, pointed his gun at them, asked if they were “TSA” and then moved on without pulling the trigger if the answer was no. A witness said the gunman cursed the TSA repeatedly as he moved through the terminal.
J. David Cox Sr., president of the union that represents 45,000 TSA flight screeners, called the shooting a “heinous act.” The gunman was not a TSA officer and “never had been,” said the union, the American Federation of Government Employees.
A TSA official late Friday identified the slain screener as Gerardo I. Hernandez, 39. He was the first TSA officer killed in the line of duty since the Transportation Security Administration was created after 9/11, the union said. Cox said Hernandez was one of the behavioral detection officers stationed throughout the airport, looking for suspicious behavior.
Police said paramedics treated seven people for injuries.
The notion of a gunman firing a semi-automatic rifle at security screeners at a major airport just weeks before the crowded and stressful holiday season struck a nerve among travelers across the country.
It also brought the nation’s third-busiest airport to a near standstill and disrupted global airline schedules. While the effect was “minimal” at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, said Metropolitan Airports Commission spokesman Patrick Hogan, the ripple effect will last for days nationwide.
The shooting underscored the vulnerability of airport hubs despite a steady escalation of security over the past decade, even as travelers have grown accustomed to taking off their shoes in screening lines, undergoing full body scans and ditching their bottled water.
President Obama said he was concerned about the airport shooting, but he declined to comment further.
Rand Beers, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said, “This act of violence reminds us of the risks the brave men and women of TSA face every day as they work to protect the traveling public.”
The shooting began around 9:20 a.m. Los Angeles time, when Terminal 3 was so crowded that there were no vacant seats in the food court. Gannon said the shooter pulled the rifle from his bag and started firing as soon as he walked into the airport. He kept shooting as he went through the checkpoint and advanced toward the departure gates and restaurants.
He then traded gunfire with an airport police officer and a sergeant. “They hit him multiple times before he went down,” one law-enforcement source said. A witness said the gunman was wearing a bulletproof vest.
As bullets flew, panic erupted. Passengers dropped to the ground. They huddled in restrooms and restaurants, hoping the gunman would not come in. Some escaped the terminal through emergency exits and hid beneath the bellies of planes waiting on the tarmac.
Vernon Cardenas of West Hollywood, Calif., said the scene was “mayhem,” as frantic parents searched for their children and many people cried.
He said he was trying to determine whether he’d be safer running or staying when he found himself face to face with the gunman. “He wasn’t moving like he was being chased,” said Cardenas, the executive chef at State Social House restaurant in West Hollywood, Calif., who was scheduled to fly to Philadelphia to conduct auditions for the television show “MasterChef.”
Rather, Cardenas said, the gunman was moving slowly and methodically; Cardenas said he instantly thought of the surveillance footage of the teen shooters moving through Columbine High School in 1999 — “roaming around with nowhere to go.”
Cardenas ducked outside, through an emergency exit, and remained there until a law enforcement official gave him a thumbs-up through the window, indicating that it was safe.
Francis Specker, 50, of Riverside, Calif., who lived in New York on 9/11, said of the attack, “I guess this is sort of the new normal, right?”
The Washington Post contributed to this report.
© 2013 Star Tribune